The Hartmann Dairy Farm, which has been linked by Minnesota Public Health officials to an outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 that has sickened 5 people, at least one critically, released a statement today:
"As of today, there is no evidence of any harmful bacteria in any raw milk, cheese, meat or other product sampled from the Hartmann Farm," the statement said. "The State has engaged in a serious regulatory and potentially criminal action in a grossly negligent manner with total disregard for the defamatory content of their media campaign."
A better statement would have been, "As of today, we remain deeply apologetic and feel great remorse that a product from our farm has caused human suffering, particularly for the young child who developed hemolytic uremic syndrome. While we feel health officials have unfairly treated our farm, we recognize that there was a problem with a product that we sold, and we pledge to analyze our production, bottling, and handling practices to ensure that the same problem never happens again."
Perhaps a major reason for the deep division between the opposing sides on the raw milk issue is the deny, deny, deny approach that many of the product’s most vocal proponents (including the Weston A Price Foundation) have encouraged in retrospective analysis of raw milk outbreaks. They haven’t said much lately, but the Hartmann Dairy’s PR blunder today is reminiscent of this myopic, uneducated, and most of all totally insensitive approach (particularly to the families of children whose kidneys are failing) to analyzing a problem within the raw dairy industry.
Sometimes the weight of the epidemiological evidence is insurmountable, and although the final reports have not yet been released on this outbreak, the Minnesota Departments of Health and Agriculture employ some of the most talented disease sleuths in the world. Take umbrage with the different treatment of raw milk and other products, but don’t offend the families of those who are ill and may suffer from lifelong kidney problems by saying "it wasn’t us." Yes it was.